Last Sunday, I left for church camp with my son (Camden), my nephew and almost 300 campers. The four days were packed with fun activities like water games, zip-lining, swimming at the lake, scavenger hunts and more.
I led a team of 19 campers and two junior leaders. As a team, we ate our meals together, had small group time and participated in team games. I also slept in a dorm with nearly 30 elementary-aged boys. It was quite the experience.
Overall, I had a wonderful time.
During my time at camp, I learned some things about myself that I didn’t expect. Here are some of the things I learned:
1) The most rewarding experiences in life don’t always come easy. I’ve had some time to reflect on my camp experience since we got home last Weds. night. Overall, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time.
It didn’t start out that way. I didn’t get any sleep the first night because I was fighting some kind of a stomach bug. It lasted almost 24 hours. I texted my wife multiple times that I wanted to come home. She encouraged me to push on. I knew I couldn’t leave anyway because I’d be letting the campers down (not to mention my son and nephew).
After I got through the stomach bug, I had an awesome time. I came to the realization that sometimes you just have to “push through.” I’m glad that I did.
2) It’s good to get away from normal everyday life. When I was at camp, I never had time to think about work, finances, parenting or any other adult stresses that I deal with every day. I was given the opportunity to spend quality time with my son and the other kids on my team. It’s not very often that I truly get to step away. I was grateful for the opportunity.
3) Experiences like this remind me how much I love my family. As we came to the end of camp, I felt this overwhelming love for my son. I wanted to hug him and tell him how much I loved him.
We also had an experience where a bathroom sink broke on him and I momentarily panicked because I thought he was hurt. Fortunately, he was just scared. The sink didn’t fare so well.
I was thrilled to see my wife and our other two kids once I returned home. Sometimes, we need a break from each other but it’s always good to be back together.
4) I can be a better example/role model for my kids, family members and other kids I’m around. During camp, I tried to not “parent” my son and nephew too much. I pretty much let them do whatever they wanted (within reason).
There was a particular moment where I squeezed my son’s arm for misbehaving and he immediately shut down and didn’t want to participate in the activity we were doing. I accidentally embarrassed him in front of the other kids. I felt really bad and apologized to him afterward. It was a very valuable lesson for me.
5) I need to step out of my comfort zone from time to time to grow as a human being. I was responsible for a large group of kids for four days. In addition, I led several small group times. I was extremely anxious about it going into camp. Looking back, my experiences at camp pushed me and I’m a better person because of it.
6) Little boys (and girls) can and will lose everything (including their shoes). On our last day, as my team was waiting for a wagon to take us to meet the kids’ parents, I noticed that one of my campers was missing his shoes. He had no idea where they were. When I asked him if he had other shoes, he said he lost them too. I guess he was having too much fun to worry about shoes.
I swept our dorm after most of the kids were out and I couldn’t believe how many of them left stuff on their beds with their names written on them. There were socks and underwear everywhere! I’m guessing there were a lot of angry parents at kids that didn’t bring everything back home with them.
7) Kids “go” until they can’t. Camden fell asleep before we made it home.
I loved camp and spending time with the kids. We all had fun, made some new memories, met some new friends and hopefully learned a thing or two.
I think I’m going to look for more opportunities to work with kids in the future. They’ve got a lot to teach me.